There are but a few things that can put a damper on any summer cruise in your favorite muscle car, namely unbearable heat and humidity while on the drive. Not that we don't possess the same toughness as veteran owners did, but in today's aftermarket there is no need to endure summer's sweltering worst. An incredible selection of climate control products is available to keep us comfortable.
This month we checked out Classic Auto Air's (CAA) universal air and heating systems as well as its Perfect Fit Series for most Chevy applications. These units come with everything needed to improve heating over the factory system, including multiple fan speed controls and the addition of ice-cold air conditioning. You can further customize your particular installation, as we did, by simply calling CAA directly.
Without a doubt, Chevy High Performance readers are techno-savvy individuals, and since we provide monthly Step By Step installments, these pages will be spent on evaluating the CAA system and providing additional tips and tricks we performed as well. Our installation is in a '64 Chevelle convertible along with the provided Sanden compressor and beltdrive system from Concept One and an Edelbrock hi-flow water pump, which was covered in a previous Step by Step piece (Nov. '06). Rather than rehashing the same details here, we'll focus on the ease and fitment that the Perfect Fit Series provides in most typical installations.
What We Did
Added air conditioning to improve the creature comforts of a drop-top Chevelle.
The results were well worth the effort!
Complete system, $1,245 (Classic Auto Air PN 20-239) plus recharge service and freon.
How the Heck Does It Work?
Having always been fascinated by how things function, before starting the installation we did a little extra credit investigation to learn how an air conditioning system works. For the most part, an automotive A/C system is split into high- and low-pressure sections.
The cycle begins when the compressor at high pressure pushes refrigerant in superheated gas form into the condenser. Fresh air absorbs the heat of the gas as air passes through the fins. As the refrigerant cools, it condenses and turns into a subcooled high-pressure liquid. The liquid then flows through the drier, which filters out impurities and separates pure liquid from gases. This subcooled, high-pressure liquid then travels to the expansion valve, where it is metered into droplets and delivered to the evaporator found inside the car. The refrigerant cools down as it moves through the unit and as fans blow warm interior air over the fins. Heat is sucked out of the air and absorbed by the refrigerant. As the air temperature drops, the air cannot hold the same level of moisture, and this moisture collects onto the fins, eventually running out through the drain. While the low-pressure gas travels back to the compressor, the cooled air from the evaporator is pushed by the fan through the vents to the occupants inside the car.
There you have it. Pretty cool, huh?
As with any installation on your project, always start with the instruction sheets. In this case it is a 21-page package that commands your attention. The Custom Auto Air folks spent quite a bit of time preparing these instructions. They're written well and include several photos. You'll also find two cutting templates to guide installers though each step. A good idea is to separate the parts into groups for the underhood and interior stages. This makes selection easier later.
Tips & Tricks
While we didn't get overly creative with our installation, we did make two minor changes to our system. First, we changed the main interior vent to one that would attach as a single unit across the bottom of the dash. With the help of their sales folks, a unit from an early Barracuda kit (sorry, Chevy faithful) matched our need. It measured perfectly from the end of the console to the vent pull-handle at the far right, giving it a factory look. We also shot a quick coat of semigloss on all the black interior parts to give them a finish that matched the rest of the interior.